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On boardgamesgeek.com there is written that an average length of Thunderstone game (no expansions) is 60 minutes. But when I play it with my girlfriend we regularly play for more than 2 hours. I don't remember actually playing it for less than an hour. It is really too long and although we enjoy the game so much, we often prefer other games to Thunderstone because of the length. We also tend not to fight monsters we aren't sure we can beat. We do it only with the strongest ones so the other player don't receive so many points. So...

1) How long does it take you to play one game on average?

2) Is game shorter when played with more players than 2?

3) Do you have any recommendations on speeding the game up a little?

4) Do you fight monsters even if you can't win the battle? How often do you go to dungeon on average?

Thanks for any advice :).

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When you have a big discrepancy like this, it's a good idea to go back and check the rules to see if you missed something. I've only played Thunderstone a few times so I'm not sure what it'd be, though. –  Jefromi Nov 21 '13 at 16:08
    
I am quite sure we play it correctly and we have also played many times... I think we might have spent about 20 hours on playing just in the first week. –  Samuel Nov 21 '13 at 20:11
    
Okay, just a suggestion; sometimes there are easy-to-miss but important details in the rules. I have games where there are rules I know exist and still have trouble finding in the rulebook. –  Jefromi Nov 21 '13 at 21:55
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My group blows through a 4 player game in 45 minutes (not including setup) with experienced players. Are you playing the actual original Thunderstone with no expansions, or Thunderstone Advance? –  Affe Nov 21 '13 at 22:48
    
Plain old Thunderstone with no expansions :) –  Samuel Nov 22 '13 at 12:48
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5 Answers 5

The original Thunderstone, while a great game, has a bit of a design flaw in that the 'Militia' you start with are just objectively too bad. It is honestly a winning strategy to spend literally your entire first 6 turns of the game doing nothing but trashing your militia and then starting up building a deck without them. If you haven't sort of 'realized' this yet in your strategy, the game can be very slow to start and take a long time for your decks to get powered up.

The expansions to the original Thunderstone address this to some extent by adding ways to kill them off into the monster abilities and some spell/item effects that otherwise utilize them.

Thunderstone Advance makes them better by reducing the XP cost to promote them to a L1 warrior, and adding an equipment to your starting deck that gives an ability when equipped to them.

For the base game, you may consider simply starting with fewer of them in your deck to speed up the early development and be strong enough to start going to the dungeon faster.

1) My group can finish a 4 player game in 45 minutes.

2) Not significantly in my experience, but I rarely play with fewer than 4.

3) Cull some of the militia out of the starting deck. Use one of the several Apps available that generate 'semi-random' starting boards but make sure things are balanced. This way you don't get really challenging combinations like monsters that require magic and all figher-type warriors that makes for a very slow start.

4) I always go to the dungeon if I have card draw effects in my hand that give me any reasonable hope of possibly defeating something. (Not withstanding extreme cases like the Last L3 hero is on top of a hero deck and I have enough gold to get it or something...)

Thunderstone Advance is also a vastly improved game and highly recommended if you are willing to drop more $$$. Your monsters and equipment/spell cards are 'compatible' and can still be used with it.

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Thanks for such a well-thought answer :). I will try to play with your suggestions and let you know. At the end you said I should try TS Advance and that these games are compatible... Are there any major rule changes I could also apply in my basic TS? If militia is so better, could I just play with my old version as if it was the new version? I am trying to determine if it is worthy my time to read new rulebook :). Thanks –  Samuel Nov 22 '13 at 12:59
    
You could certainly just sort of memorize the changes and pretend your militia are regulars and your daggers are long-spears. That would help jump-start the game a bit. The only way in which the cards are really 'incompatible' that you need to track is effects on old cards that say "battle:" should be converted to "aftermath:" when using the advance rules. –  Affe Nov 23 '13 at 22:13
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2 hours is a LOT of time for a game of Thunderstone. Going through 20-30 monsters isnt so hard...

I see two possible problems. You may have "mechanical" problems, or have little experience with building decks.

"Mechanical" problems

Maybe you arent using your time efficiently. Some of the players in our playgroup couldnt get used to shuffling their library/planning their turn during other players turns. This is a great way to make games shorter. Some of out players just picked up their new-drawn hand when they were supposed to make their moves, making us all wait till they make up thier mind. The whole point of having the draw step at the end of the turn is to give you time to think about what youve got before its your next turn :) Sure, some of the other players may kill some of the monsters or make you discard cards, altering your plans, but accomodating for these changes once youve done all the math earlier isnt such a problem.

Deckbuilding problems

The game might be drawn out if you wait till you can kill a monster and your decks arent very good. Maybe that is your problem?

Deckbuilding is a tricky process. Most people think its about adding the coolest things to your deck, but that isnt the case. The more cards you have in your deck, the smaller the odds you get a hand that you want. If your deck has 6 torches, you may get all of them on one hand! But if your deck had only 6 good cards, you would get the perfect setting each and every turn!

So get rid of those daggers, iron rations and crappy heroes! There is a card that lets you discard crappy cards while in the village - use it! It's a must-buy! Always consider the ratio of heroes/food/equipments and spells in your deck. I know that halberd or feast is just sooo cool, but you also need someone to wield/eat it!

Also remember - each beaten monster adds to your deck, lowering the average gold and attack you'll get on your turn. Make sure you have a slim, strong deck before you start the serious beating of monsters.

For our group, the game starts slowly, with a lot of buying, turning into a slaughterfest near the end. But all in all, if we all think during other people's turns, we tend to play 30-60 min per game, setup and teardown not included.

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The problem playing with 2 people is that you often don't have time to do anything between turns. You haven't even drawn your cards yet let alone shuffled them, when your opponent says "Prepare" and it's your turn again.

Also a lot of the problem can come from the dungeon deck. If you play with the standard rules there is nothing to stop the 3 strongest monsters in the game from coming up first. Which means you can't beat them. Which means nobody gets xp. So you either just take 20 village turns buying cards or someone has to waste an entire turn failing a fight, allowing someone else first shot at the new monster. Fix this by shuffling weak and medium monsters in the top of the deck with medium and strong monsters in the bottom. This ensures a manageable opening game.

But the main problem with Thunderstone play time is that if you play like me you are talking and laughing and joking with your friend, because this is pretty much the only interaction you will have while playing this game. There is next to nothing you can do to effect your opponents. Which means you're each just playing a game by yourself in the same room as your friend. Which is fine, my games take about 2 hours as well but I'm willing to bet that at least 45 minutes of that is spend socializing. I say let the game take as long as it takes. Set up and take down are long too, so this isn't the game to pull out for a quick go before work anyway.

Oh, and your games will speed up once you and your friends know all the cards well. In the beginning I spent half the time reading cards or checking to see what the the higher level heroes do. That will cut down the game time significantly.

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To address Draygarth's point above, we play with a house rule that I found on BGG years ago:

  1. Put the Thunderstone to one side.
  2. Whenever you are supposed to draw a monster card from the dungeon deck, draw three and bring the weakest one into the hall and discard the other two.
  3. When the dungeon deck runs out (1/3 of the way through the game), shuffle the discarded monsters into a new dungeon deck and shuffle the Thunderstone into the bottom half of that.
  4. Now play with the rules as normal, just drawing the top card.

If you're playing with traps or treasures, then I discard them in phase 2 above unless they are the first of the three cards drawn.

That way for the first 1/3 of the game you get weaker monsters which are more achievable with your weak initial party. It speeds things up quite a lot in my experience, and avoids the occasional game where you draw three rock hard monsters at the beginning and everything grinds to a halt.

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Thunderstone (Advance) is the one game in my collection where I find the time of the box to be hilariously out. Playing a 4/5 player game usually takes my group 2-3 hours every time, even with experienced players.

But it's still fun :)

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